Soon we will be celebrating Ganesh Utsav followed by Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas with our loved ones. But thousands of miles away, the Indian Armed Forces (including the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force supported by the Indian Coast Guard and paramilitary organisations) will be fiercely guarding our borders and protecting the nation with their heart and soul. For soldiers, homecoming on festivals is rare.
Border Security Force (BSF), the first line of defence which personifies bravery, valour and sacrifice, has been playing a pivotal role in keeping the country safe and secure. Recently, at the international Attari-Wagah Border, BSF soldiers received a pleasant surprise from kids and Nickelodeon cartoon characters Dora and Shiva celebrating the true essence of Rakshabandhan in an event called Surakshabandhan wherein children tied BSF jawans Rakhis before Beating Retreat ceremony at the border.
Amidst all the preparations of the Retreat ceremony and enthusiasm of 10,000 plus Indians cheering the soldiers, enthusiastic kids geared up to celebrate Rakhi. We caught up with J S Oberoi, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) BSF, Amritsar, to know more about celebrating festivals at the border and how nation comes before everything else.
“Soldiers miss out on spending time with their friends and families. Having children take time out and celebrate the festival of Rakshabandhan with us has been definitely a heart-warming experience for all our soldiers, who have now been gifted some beautiful memories that they will cherish. It is for the safe and secure future of these children and the rest of the nation that we continue to tirelessly guard our borders. Being respected and acknowledged by children, who are the future of this country, will surely add to our fervour of serving the nation.”
When asked how does it feel to stay away from family during festivals, Oberoi says that every festival is dear to the soldiers and they miss their family during such special events. “We Indians have a rich history of tradition and culture, and we soldiers are also part of the society. Being on the first line of defence, we cannot send our soldiers on leave during any festival because operations and duties have a precedence over family, festivals and celebrations.”
Although they live away from their homes and families, they do celebrate festivals in their own way and take part in the mirth and merriment. “We are like family here and we celebrate festivals collectively with both male and female officers. For example, during Diwali we gather together and after the prayers, we burst firecrackers and proceed for our duty. The ceremony is short but spreads joy among us. As we come back from our duty, we are welcomed with a lavish meal called bada khana which includes special dishes from all over the country,” he says.
But the soldiers do miss out on family time. Oberoi says, “We miss out on seeing our children grow up. We do go home for vacations but they seem so quick and short. Even the children feel miserable because they get so little time to spend with us. We really miss out on the precious moments. But deep down we know that we are making the sacrifice for the country which is totally worth it.”
To be a part of the Indian Armed Forces requires tonnes of courage and passion. You must be ready to give up a life of comfort and take a bullet for the country. And it is intriguing to know what is the driving force behind such selfless acts. “Joining any uniformed service is a matter of pride for all countrymen. Representing the country and protecting your motherland is a difficult job but it gives us a joy which is inexplicable. Since we have got this opportunity we want to give our best to the country,” says Oberoi who believes that children, youngsters and countrymen should have the patriotic feeling 24x7 and not just on Independence Day or Republic Day. “Love your country everyday,” he adds.
Between duty and discipline, the soldiers get some free time to play sports or pursue their hobbies. “Whenever we get time, we play sports and enjoy running and other activities. Although we are aware of everything happening through social media, we get too little time to use it regularly,” he adds.
Being in the Army calls for strict discipline in both professional and personal life. Offering his advice on how citizens of our country can incorporate discipline into their lives, he says, “Time! You must value time. Self control is the key to success and make fitness a part of your life.”